Forced treatment for depression is beyond satire

Last year, Tory MP Gavin Barwell won a heap of praise from all shades of political colour for pushing parliamentary legislation to challenge mental health stigma.

Yet the disparity between the medical experts’ approach the complexities of mental health and the way politicians, job centres, fitness-for-work examiners, and other non-medical professionals approach this issue is still enormous, and no-one seems particularly fussed. Mental health stigma as experienced by Clarke Carlisle or Alistair Campbell, while important and terrible, is rather different than the stress, trauma, and in some cases suicides that are increasingly associated with work capability assessments and the removal of benefits for people with mental health problems.

Fast forward to July 2014 and we see that those same Tories have a brand-spanking new policy idea on what they deem “treatable” mental illnesses: for benefits to be taken away from claimants who “refuse” treatment for depression – and by treatment, the  example they give is CBT.

Tory MP and former GP Sarah Wollaston has tweeted that the idea is a “no brainer” and is “doomed to fail.” She went on to add: “When I said it’s a no brainer I mean this unethical unworkable kite flying comes from someone with #NoBrain.” Hmm, I wonder who she means…

As a doctor, Wollaston understands medical ethics and the inherent problems in forced treatment better than some of her colleagues might. She also presumably understands illness, treatment, cure, and all the messy nuances that go alongside each.

Depression (which I’m focusing on here because it’s the main illness singled out as “treatable” by the “senior Tory” who is quoted in the Daily Telegraph about the policy idea) is complex and unpredictable. It can be sporadic, uncontrollable, sometimes fatal. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy works well for some people, some of the time, but it is not right for everybody and even when it “works”, it’s hardly a permanent cure – it’s more like just one way of mitigating some of the most painful symptoms that the illness brings.  Politicians are not doctors.

But this policy idea isn’t just an ethical issue from a health perspective. It is yet another policy designed to “get people back to work” which focuses entirely on changing the attitude or behaviour of the potential employee, and changing nothing about employment practices. If you want people battling depression to work full time you need to put pressure on employers to actively challenge discrimination in their employment practices, and actively make sure their workplaces suitably accommodate people with depression.

The real irony of these proposals is that in many parts of the country, NHS mental health support and treatment is under-resourced, almost to a point of devastation. Many people are desperate for treatment and are made to wait months and months. Often when support does come, it’s in the form of group therapy, with strangers – hardly a safe environment. I have one friend who, despite being suicidal, had to stop attending his sessions the first time around because the social setting quite unsurprisingly triggered his anxiety – and because, well, who wants to discuss things like abuse, phobias, or sexual inadequacy with a bunch of strangers? Certainly not people who suffer from extreme social phobias and anxieties.

I can’t help but wonder how common it is to force people with physical conditions to share the details with strangers, in order to access support or treatment? I am thinking of the complexities of people’s lives and wondering how private, let alone how specialist, these forced CBT sessions will be? Could a rape survivor be forced to discuss their PTSD and depressive episodes with victim-blamers in the room? Could LGB sufferers of depression be forced to discuss their personal feelings of self-worth with homophobes? Could trans people suffering from depression be forced to talk about their experience of the world with transphobes?

And, perhaps the most ridiculous thing of all: this policy is ostensibly about saving money. Years ago the Mental Health Foundation published a great piece of research which showed that costs associated with mental health are overwhelmingly connected to lack of early support and poor preventative measures; a reluctance to invest in public health when it comes to our minds the way we do when it comes to, say, smoking or obesity.

Cuts to SEN specialists and teaching assistants in schools, cuts to local authority budgets, cuts to the police force, cuts to hospitals, cuts in social services, cuts in support for people with mental illnesses and for their carers, cuts in housing benefit all have a knock-on impact on how quickly mental health issues can be identified and addressed. The expense, says the Mental Health Foundation, comes when people reach their crisis point in a way which could have been mitigated or even avoided, had they been supported earlier on. The idea that the government has suddenly had a light bulb moment, after decimating the very services that help people manage or avoid their mental health crisis point, that, actually, support and treatment might also be a good idea, is quite frankly beyond satire.

Saatchi gallery sale of assault paintings: separating the art from the artist?

Whenever a talented artist turns out to be a supremely terrible human being, we, the consumers of their talent, are always invited to ‘separate the person from the art.’

Sometimes it’s easy enough. You can like Wagner’s music without his anti-semitism getting in the way of the rise and fall of a particular melody. Other times it is less easy. Woody Allen, who has had to deny sexually abusing his stepdaughter Dylan Farrow, has a film advert plastered all over the tube. The title is Fading Gigolo. The tagline is: ‘the worlds oldest profession just got older.’ This feels, well, less than helpful for anyone trying to separate the person from the art, so they can carry on enjoying Allen’s films in peace. And other times, such as the newly revealed paintings on sale via Charles Saatchi’s online gallery, depicting his assault on Nigella Lawson, it is plain impossible.

So what exactly are these distinctions we so judiciously make as we choose what to look at, listen to, or purchase? Chris Brown’s assault on Rihanna prompted a tsunami of panicked debates about the so-called culture of misogyny in hiphop and R&B; I wonder if we will now see a proportionate debate about the culture of misogyny in art?

Damien Udaiyan, one of several artists who painted the assault, says his piece is supposed to be about Saatchi’s assault, but also a “comment about the art market, and how people control it.” Fair enough, although he’s selling it via Saatchi’s site for £5,870 – or, as I call it, 13 months’ rent – and the site gets a 30% commission. Perhaps that’s some other clever comment on the art market and the powerful people who control it.

In fact, artistic markets, critics, and canons alike have long treated women as objects not agents, and the market in general has long treated women as commodities or accessories to split a profit on, so perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised that Charles Saatchi, both successful artist and successful capitalist, would be able to profit from the commodification of his own assault on Lawson.

What perhaps should be surprising, though – or at least noteworthy – is that there are people who would purchase these pieces, allowing Saatchi to profit from his actions; indeed, that there are actually people who want to look at those pictures at all. But perhaps they are not for looking at; perhaps they are collectors’ items, to gather dust and financial value. Perhaps they are all about business, and nothing to do with beauty. What, then, is art even for?

At some point, it is not enough to just say that we are separating the art from the person. When somebody is profiting from the art, when it is reflecting a particular world view, when it is explicitly about more than just beauty for its own sake, then at some point we must ask: what is this for? What role does art play in forming our cultural norms, in how we intellectualise beauty?

Richard Dawkins got himself into a bit of a scrap on Twitter recently for disputing whether Shakespeare’s being white and male should be taken into account when weighing up his place in the literary canon. I adore Shakespeare but of course it matters if the art we take for granted as ‘the best’ validates and reflects one dominant experience more so than all others. Art validates our humanity. It tells us who we are.

We are fooling ourselves if we believe we are always able to separate the art from the person. We are fooling ourselves if we think it’s a coincidence that Saatchi is able to profit from his attack on Lawson, that fellow artists have chosen to sell it specifically via his site, that we are meant to feel sympathy for Othello when Desdemona is killed, that we trust Woody Allen’s portrayal of humanity to be objectively truthful. What are we looking at, exactly, when we look at a picture of Lawson’s traumatised, scared face, painted and sold for £5,870? Now: what is the value of it?

 

‘Political correctness’ is about listening, not speaking

I find myself increasingly frustrated by established writers like Nick Cohen writing again and again on so-called ‘political correctness’, equating it with a top-down controlling approach to language, when in fact it is very often the opposite.

What I often see when people talk about ‘political correctness’ is the democratisation of language. The ‘objective’ consensus that existed before the days of ‘PC gone mad’ about what is and isn’t acceptable or offensive, where did that come from, if not the educated ‘establishment’? The top-down slurs used to dehumanise and devalue entire groups of people, where do those words come from, if not the ‘establishment’? When the charity MIND responded to Cohen’s most recent anti-political correctness article on the subject of mental health slurs, they stressed the fact that their language objections and suggestions come not from political types or academics, but from all sorts of ordinary people that they work with. Asking well-paid high profile media professionals to listen to the voices of those people is the very opposite of a top-down imposition from the ‘political class.’

Nick Cohen also explicitly makes the argument that using respectful language about anybody with mental health problems is what softens the public up to the cuts to services or benefits. The idea that people with mental illnesses were treated better before the days of respectful language is so bizarre it is bleakly amusing. You don’t need to look back as far as the Victorians to see that this is false. Over the last century there has been, broadly speaking, consistent positive improvements in terms of how we approach mental health which correlates almost directly with the work done by groups like MIND. That work includes campaigns around language – not just discussing which words we ‘can’ say or write, but all of us together re-evaluating the way we think. Dehumanising language is problematic because it’s an expression of dehumanising thinking, and far from ‘political correctness’ leading to less humane policies, history would suggest that the best way to justify inhumane policy is to first dehumanise the necessary groups – using language.

Besides, isn’t what Cohen says he advocates here just as much a case of ‘political correctness’ as what MIND advocates? He argues that we should use x or y terminology to justify government spending on mental health. That argument is either disingenuous or else he’s come so far round full circle that he’s forgotten what his original point was (that those on high shouldn’t dictate language for political reasons). Either way, he seems, along with far too many others, to have given up on challenging the underlying reasons why anyone should resign themselves to being dependent on ‘charity’ in the first place. Benevolent charity from on high is arguably much more of an imposition by the ‘political class’ than asking people to check their language.

And the reason why such a societal model is problematic is evidenced by Cohen’s own message to MIND: don’t you dare criticise the way people treat you or speak about you, because they could withdraw their oh-so-generous ‘charity’ any time. It codes it into our social and economic DNA that inequality is inevitable, that power disparities are inevitable. It isn’t true. And when we start to talk about, say, people with mental illnesses in language that implies difference not inferiority or weakness, we begin to ask questions about those power structures. We begin to ask that employers make an effort to accommodate various types of mental illness. We begin to ask that transport providers make an effort to accommodate various types of physical disability. We begin to ask how much of that ‘inevitable’ inequality is down to stigma, prejudice, greed and inflexibility on the part of society’s institutions, rather than something innate which we must all accept. How much of the social isolation that can go alongside mental illness – which can, in turn, be connected to other inequalities from housing to imprisonment rates – could be mitigated by breaking down stereotypes and slurs?

Reshaping the way we value each other, reshaping the things we believe to be central to each other’s humanity and the things we don’t, reshaping our priorities, those things should be central to tackling mental health inequality – all inequality. The real irony that so many miss when getting upset about what they can or cannot say or write anymore is that at the root of what is fashionable to call ‘political correctness’ the point isn’t to say or write anything at all, but to listen to each other.

Richard Dawkins and the limits of liberalism

Richard Dawkins and the limits of liberalism

Richard Dawkins, scientist-cum-professional-controversialist, has confirmed what I have for a while suspected: that, in spite of being a very talented scientist, he is also a – how shall I put this – a less than lovely human being.

Today he is lamenting the great injustice that perpetrators of anti-Muslim hate crime are given too harsh sentences. “Who was hurt, except the pig?” he rhetorically asks his thousands of Twitter followers, as the pair who (in their own words) “invaded” an Edinburgh mosque by attacking it with bacon were sentenced to jail

This is the same Dawkins, let us remember, who, when Rebecca Watson wrote about how uncomfortable it was to be chatted up in an enclosed space like a lift right after giving a talk on sexual harassment, took the time to sneer at how trivial her complaint was, compared with the serious things happening to other women, in other countries. (Sam Ambreen has written a brilliant blog here about why this line of reasoning is nonsense.) This matter of anti-Islamic criminals being sentenced to jail is presumably the kind of high priority issue he would prefer people spent their energies on.

The attack on the mosque wasn’t just any attack. One of the perpetrators is a member of the Scottish Defence League – the Scottish version of the EDL. The self-appointed ‘rationalists’ seem to think the fact that you should always be free to criticise people’s religion (obviously true) applies here. But it doesn’t. The EDL and the SDL are not critiquing religious oppression. Many are hardline ‘Christian’ extremists, full of homophobic, misogynistic, anti-choice rubbish of their own. Nobody was critiquing passages or verses from the Quran. Nobody was asserting their own right to disbelief in Allah. This was bacon attached to and thrown at the door of a mosque, in a climate of rising hatred and violence towards Muslim communities. It is more akin to attacks on synagogues in a climate of rising anti-semitism than to an atheist or humanist critique of religion.

Attacks like these have nothing to do with ‘rationalism’ or atheism and everything to do with the nasty shadow of the far right that is creeping across Europe. When we talk about fascism and far right politics, we are too quick to talk about the role working class people play in driving it forwards, and too slow to talk about the responsibility of journalists, academics, politicians, scientists, and all sorts of other middle class professionals who have historically been central to the rise of fascism whenever it has occurred. Scientists, doctors and psychiatrists in particular played a huge role in legitimising racism in the early part of the last century, with their cold, ‘objective’ evidence based on measuring foreheads and gaslighting women into mental illness.

Rationalist liberalism likes to position itself as objective. The privileged arrogance of assuming yourself to be impartial and everyone else to be subjective speaks for itself. Too often, white rich men are able to see themselves as objective because they are the default human being, after all: what possible biases or prejudices could they have?

Nobody is removed from the context of the society they live in. If you describe yourself as a rationalist, far from being a super-rational person, you probably just have blind spots to your own privileges and prejudices.

Richard Dawkins talks of Muslims being “offended” by the bacon attack but we are talking about oppression, fear and real violence. Context, as I have written before, matters. Last week a woman was killed possibly, the police say, for wearing Muslim dress. Britain First are making threats to journalists for writing about them. Marine Le Pen’s Front National has topped the EU elections in France. The party is being widely reported, even by the BBC, as a ‘Eurosceptic’ party. This is the reality of the context this hate crime – for that is surely what it is – happened in. To say that nobody was “hurt” by one individual incident, as Dawkins did, highlights the limits of liberalism. Liberalism, by itself, ignores the structural. ‘Pure’ liberals, ironically, seem to have ended up as devout believers in the shiny religion of individualism, even when increasingly the evidence tells us that both socially and economically, liberalism is no longer, by itself, enough to make society better.

Michael Fabricant, jokes, political correctness and context

Michael Fabricant, jokes, political correctness and context

Michael Fabricant doesn’t seem to take much seriously. So it’s not surprising to me that he thinks it’s a right old laugh to joke about punching a Muslim woman in the throat if she gets a bit too opinionated for his liking.

As the defenders of ‘political incorrectness’ like to say: context is all. You have to take it in context. Stop being offended, you’re just taking it out of context. So I have to ask: what is the context to this comment?

Last week, a woman was murdered. The police believe it could have been because she was ‘wearing Muslim dress.’ Tell Mama has reported that Muslim women are experiencing ever-higher levels of hate crime, so much so that, according to reports, just going outside means taking an explicit risk.

The context is that hey, feminists are hysterical, and women overreact, so we need not be taken seriously in our outrage. Not so when the Liddles and the Farages of the world get outraged; no, then it must Mean Something. Ah, we need to respond to this! Their outrage shows the alienation of the public from the political class, or the rise of political correctness gone mad!

It’s not like Fabricant’s tweets are never taken seriously. When Fabricant, back in the days when he was party chairman, tweeted something which embarrassed David Cameron, of course, that was an entirely different matter. He was sacked for saying it was ‘about time’ Maria Miller went. But joking about punching a Muslim woman in the throat, in the midst of a climate of rising racism and violence? Cameron backs him up.

Ah, context. When respected, professional men like Michael Fabricant jokily sympathise with somebody wanting to give a woman a punch, she, not he, is the one who is then subject to a heap of abuse. That is the real context to Michael Fabricant’s joke.

The more marginalised you are the more people believe your right to be heard is conditional. The more people believe your right to be heard, the right to your humanity, is conditional, the more disproportionate the reaction you ‘provoke’ will be. The anger expressed to wards Alibhai-Brown or Diane Abbott (or, in America, Michelle Obama or Melissa Harris Perry) never seems proportionate to whatever they have supposedly ‘done’.

Was Yasmin Alibhai-Brown seriously imagined to be somehow more unpleasant than Rod Liddle was, in the interview that so offended Mr Fabricant? Liddle rudely insulted the interviewer and complained – a typical manifestation of the entitlement ingrained in the faux-anti-establishment brigade – that the questions weren’t about the things he fancied talking about. He pretended he didn’t know what Alibhai-Brown was referring to when she mentioned his comments on Stephen Lawrence’s murder – comments that it is extremely hard to believe he had forgotten, given that he was found to have breached a court order over them, and the Spectator was fined. If Liddle, who writes of ‘black savages’ and compares supporting gay marriage as a conservative to endorsing sex with a goat as a conservative, does not provoke an equivalent violent fantasy from the likes of Fabricant, it begs the question: what would a white man actually have to say to provoke one? You don’t even have to agree with Brown or disagree with Liddle to see that Yasmin Alibhai-Brown was certainly not being any more provocative that he was.

Provocative is a strangely gendered word. We do not often hear of men being provocative, or at least, when we do, the bar is set so much higher. A man is provocative, for example, if he is seen carrying a weapon, or if he shouts abuse in the street at a stranger, or if he gets drunk and squares up to somebody in a bar. A woman is provocative if she wears a miniskirt or has an opinion or two.

When we talk about context, which is the third magic word that pops up alongside ‘irony’ and ‘intention’, it always seems to be a very specific context that those people are interested in discussing. “You have to take it in context,” cry endless apologists for ‘ironic’ sexism or racism, before innocently asking why they cannot say the N-word, if NWA can, or why they can’t shout ‘bitch’ at women in the street if Beyonce can sing the word in a song about empowering herself.

Reacting to ‘jokes’ like Fabricant’s is not about being offended, and it’s certainly not about being knee-jerk. It’s not even about the individual joke itself. Would Fabricant actually punch Alibhai-Brown in the neck? It’s highly unlikely that he would. (What a thing, though, to be an MP, and have people rounding behind you to assert that you wouldn’t really punch a woman, as if that alone is amazingly high praise that qualifies you to keep your job.) No, much of the reaction to these seemingly silly little incidents is a dispassionate, structural analysis of the context in which those ‘jokes’ sit. The context, not the single incident, is what makes it matter. The context is not just that two women a week die of domestic violence. The context is how many of those women died because they were made to believe it was a little bit their fault, because they were, in some small way, too provocative.

Employers shouldn’t demand employees trust them with private information without asking why so many do not

Employers shouldn’t demand employees trust them with private information without asking why so many do not 

Two seemingly unrelated stories were published this week. In the first, a young woman claims she was denied employment by Emirates Airline because she has a history of depression. In the second, a local council has demanded all staff members notify management of any relationships between themselves, to avoid accusations of favouritism.

These are two different cases, involving very different employers, yet both show a similar culture of entitlement on behalf of employers towards employees. In America, employers in some states already have an entitlement to access private details about prospective employees, particularly if they are also the employee’s source of healthcare. In a world where digital advancements put private information at the fingertips of those who have means to find it, perhaps it’s time to finally take seriously the fact that privacy and liberty aren’t just things we need to protect from the state, but increasingly, something we need to protect from powerful private companies, and our employers, whether public or private.

Telling employees to notify their employer about any intimate relationships might not seem like a very invasive thing to ask, but it is by extension commanding a lot more information than just the name of a partner. It compels employees involved with a colleague to disclose their sexual orientation directly to their employer – something many employees still do not feel comfortable doing. It compels employees in polyamorous or open relationships and marriages outside of work to discuss the details of their relationship set up with their employer. It compels employees sexually involved with more than one colleague to discuss their ‘promiscuity’ with their employer – something which many people, particularly women, still find themselves judged for.

Let’s not pretend that all participants in all types of relationship get viewed and discussed in the same way. We all know how depressingly predictable the double standard still is between women with a sex life and men with a sex life. And let’s not pretend that everybody trusts their boss, either in terms of the conclusions they may draw themselves, or who they may ‘confidentially’ share the information with.

Of course, it’s technically illegal to discriminate against an employee for, say, having a same sex relationship. But it’s not illegal to develop a vague perception of someone as irresponsible or easy (women who have casual sex), or immature and indecisive (bisexuals), or volatile, irrational and weak (people who battle mental illness) and subconsciously factor these assumptions into the overall treatment, including that which directly relates to career development. This is the kind of thing that can be extremely hard to identify or pinpoint, because it is part of a broader tapestry of perception about an employee. So, it’s not surprising that some employees may prefer to not disclose information about their sexual orientation, gender identity, sex life, or mental health.

As the law stands, it may well be deemed entirely legal for a UAE employer like Emirates Airline to discriminate on the basis on mental health. The airline has been enigmatical about their reasoning, which leaves a very hard situation to speak up about or prove.

It is a common scenario: applicants are repeatedly finding themselves turned down for work, which may or may not be a result of anti-mental illness discrimination, so try not disclosing their mental health history, get accepted for a job, and then get in trouble or dismissed because they didn’t correctly disclose the mental illness. The applicant will, of course, be assured that they’re not facing discrimination for mental health or disability, but for failure to disclose. If that’s true, what are we to make of all the rejections where they do disclose? And why demand people disclose a part of their medical history at all?

The double standards around mental health issues like depression are enormous. When accessing state support – benefit or NHS counselling, for example – the slightest suggestion that you might be okay, really, can deem you fit for work and totally fine. So in order to access support – sometimes the very support that makes it possible for you to work at all in the first place – you must emphasise the very worst of your dark episodes. Yet at the same time, in applying for and holding on to jobs – sometimes through the very same Job Centre – you must hide your depression, because you have no guarantee that employers won’t form quiet, even subconscious, judgments about you for it. And if you don’t disclose the depression, and make them aware of it, well, that’s your fault too.

I’m reminded of a friend I had at school, who used to make casually homophobic jokes. When I eventually came out to her, she was insulted that I had kept it secret from her for so long.

If you want people to disclose things, then you need to be someone they can tell. When ‘slut,’ ‘dyke,’ ‘mental’ and ‘schizo’ get thrown around in casual conversations, including in workplaces, don’t be surprised if some employees occasionally call in with headaches rather than telling you they’re experiencing a depressive episode, or feel less than enthusiastic about having to inform their boss about a fling with a colleague. If it’s okay for the ‘World’s Favourite Airline’ to remove an offer of a job because the employee has a history of sporadic, situational depression, then don’t be surprised if your employees aren’t rushing to notify you of the full details of their mental health. You want the right to know about our personal lives? Earn it.

What was wrong with Elliot Rodger? (Short answer: a lot)

Guest post by Emily O’Malley

I read Elliot Rodger‘s whole 140-page manifesto, and have not been able to stop thinking about it all week. From the day it happened, I’ve heard a medley of theories about his pathology. People have blamed mental illness, guns, violent video guns, MRAs, feminists, atheism, racism, and his therapists. Some have taken a leaf out of his own book and faulted women for not dating him. Others have said that no one is responsible but Elliot himself. A guest on Fox News even speculated that he must have been secretly gay and angry with women for taking away the men he desired. After watching his videos and reading his autobiographical screed, I point the (middle) finger at narcissism and misogyny–both his own, and that of the society which fostered it.

Elliot Rodgers was an egomaniacal, emotionally infantile, status-obsessed, classist, racist, sexist, spoiled pig. He demanded that everything be handed to him on a blood diamond-encrusted platter, and for the most part, he got it. His parents bought him everything he could possibly want, along with countless other things he was too ungrateful to appreciate. We’re talking about a guy who went on international vacations nearly every year and always flew first class. He had VIP passes for movie premieres and attended a private Katy Perry concert. He wore Armani and Gucci, ate at five-star restaurants whenever he pleased, and drove a BMW. His dad was friends with Steven Spielberg. Even so, he didn’t believe he was wealthy. He kept pressuring his mom to find a rich husband so he could “be part of a high-class family” in order to feel superior to others. His mom didn’t wish to remarry, but Elliot told her she should sacrifice her own happiness for his sake, because he believed that being rich was the only way he could lose his virginity. He wanted women gifted to him along with all the other status symbols, but found that to be far more of a challenge.

Elliot constantly spoke of being rejected by women, but it was entirely in his own head. From the sound of his manifesto, he never even asked women out. He didn’t approach them. He didn’t flirt. He went out by himself in public and expected women to flock over to him, and felt jilted when they didn’t. How many women are going to approach a man who’s immersed in a book at Barnes & Noble or waiting in front of Domino’s? How many women are going to try to pick up a man they see jogging around in a park? Based on those descriptions, he must have looked busy. He never tried to initiate conversation. There were some encounters in which a woman smiled at him, but he didn’t follow it up by saying hello. He decided she must not be interested because she didn’t fall into his lap right then and there.

The manifesto contained numerous laments about not having friends, but Elliot was the one who drove them away. Whenever he made friends, he became maddeningly jealous of them for attracting women or being charismatic. He snubbed the friendship of anyone he saw as nerdy or unattractive, but felt deeply threatened by attractive and outgoing friends. His jealousy immediately turned to hate. When any of his friends dated or hooked up with women, he assumed they were doing it to spite him. He truly believed that everything they did was directed at him. This wasn’t just his belief about friends; he also applied it to strangers. Elliot thought that every couple out in public was displaying their affection just to make him feel inferior.

Elliot was also racist. He was half-Asian but passed as white, and heaped a generous helping of racial slurs onto black people, Hispanics, and Asians. He seemed to idolize blonde white women as an Aryan ideal, and I doubt it was a coincidence that the majority of his victims were Asian men. He was trying to kill off that part of himself.

His hatred of women burns through the pages, searing anyone who scrolls through. He wanted to own and enslave them. He wanted to establish himself as a godlike dictator, lock women up in concentration camps, and starve them all to death. I’ve heard people ask why no woman ever gave him a chance. After pointing out the fact that he never actually approached any of them, I respond by asking, “Would you?” He was handsome and rich and had myriad Hollywood connections, but clearly that’s not enough to attract someone if you radiate predatory zeal. Clearly you can still scare people, even if you’re good looking and intelligent. Creepiness is a distinct trait that attractive people are not immune from exuding. I strongly suspect that he would have been violent and predatory even if he did have a girlfriend. It was his nature. If somebody can’t handle being denied what they want, they can’t handle it any better from a significant other. With his impossible demands and inability to be satisfied, I also doubt that one girlfriend would have been enough for him. Even if he had managed to win over a woman he viewed as a flawless trophy, he’d be enraged about not being able to date every woman who appealed to him, and he would still feel as if the world were cheating him out of his rightful rewards. The people who blame women for “not giving him a chance” would also blame a woman if she did date him and was murdered. They’d say, “She had to be crazy to say yes!” Either way, Elliot would be absolved of responsibility.

Elliot’s affinity for Men’s Rights Activist websites has caused many to wonder if they fueled his fury toward women. I’d say that was more of a symptom than a cause. He already felt alienated from women and blamed them for his misery, so he sought out an online community with others who shared his grievances. Very few of his partners in commiseration would actually commit murder, but the support he received for his massacre is chilling. Not all MRAs condone Elliot’s actions, of course, but a great deal of them are choosing to derail the topic (or possibly rationalize it) by immediately reverting to, “Well, women kill men, too!” or “There are women who commit domestic violence.” Yes, there are women who domestically abuse men and women who kill male partners. No one is denying those facts or using this tragedy to excuse female-on-male violence. However, we are currently talking about a man who committed a mass shooting based almost entirely on his acrimony towards women, and many MRAs seem unwilling to discuss this without seeking out a way to blame the female gender.

A large portion of Elliot’s alienation from women, and social struggles in general, seemed related to his Asperger’s Syndrome. That being said, Asperger’s alone doesn’t account for his actions. Plenty of people with Asperger’s are able to date and have active social lives. It may take more effort for them than it does for others, but it can be achieved. Elliot’s astounding level of narcissism kept him from finding love and keeping friends. He wanted the world to drop down and worship him, and refused to take responsibility for any of his flaws. That’s not attributed to Asperger’s Syndrome. It’s not psychosis, either. One striking aspect of Elliot’s manifesto was its lucidity. His ideas were outrageously inaccurate, but coherent and consistent. He couldn’t relate to others’ joy or connection, so he resolved to destroy it.

I’d diagnose that as bare evil.